Thursday, 9 April 2009

The right to protest

So Thailand is back making global political headlines again - can you say it ever stopped though? This time the spotlight in on the Thaksin Shinawatra supporting Red Shirts, rivals in chief to the PAD mob.

It was the PAD who, back in December, opened my eyes to the right to protest, Thai style, when they rolled into Suvarnbhumi airport en mass to protest against then acting Prime Minsiter Somchai Wongsawat - believing him to be a puppet of Thaksin. Eventually Chaovarat gave in to the pressure, a new Prime Minsiter was chosen, all was happy ever after and we come to the present day...

The protesters are the Reds with their Truth Today campaign. The object of their protestations is Prime Minsiter Abhisit Vejjajiva and their objective is his resignation and an election.

The Red Shirts are pushing for change in Thailand.

Those are the basic facts distilled down for simplicity's sake. In what seems to a quickly establishing hallmark of Thai democracy, the anti-Abhisit Reds have taken to the streets of Bangkok to apply their pressure.

Around 2/3 weeks ago Red Shirts began their occupation of land near Government House. Their presence escalated today when a group of taxis drivers - an industry known for its unwavering support for exiled, former PM Thaksin - parked cabs to abstruct all entrances to Victory Monument, one of central Bangkok's busiest transport hubs.

It's inevitable, when you look at it. The Yellow Shirts (PAD) got what they wanted by causing chaos and closing the national airport so the Reds (significantly made up of a strong presence outside of Bangkok) took this marker and went for the heart of the capital - closing roads and massively inconveniencing the city.

This evening Abhisit addressed Thailand with a national TV broadcast in which he stood his ground by refusing to resign. He warned that the government would proceed with legal action against anyone deemed to be acting against national security.
PM Abhisit owes his very position to a protest

He is deadly serious but there is an irony about Abhisit and his statement of legal action which will be lost on few. 

To this date, no arrests have been made in connection with the PAD's occupation of the airport which led to his appointment as PM. Surely closing the national airport is detrimental to national security?!

Yet no arrests and no come uppance for the PAD protestors.

To me this is clearly the crux of the problem, and one of the justifications for the Red Shirts..."the Yellows got what they wanted and suffered no consequences, why should we?"

The right protest is an essential part of democracy but it is has grown out of control in Thailand.

For the sake of the nation a compromise must be found and actions must be taken to strongly discourage such protests in the future. If this sets the standard the retaliatory protests may never stop.

At this stage it is difficult to see who will win out - The Reds or Abhisit? The one hope is that things don't get ugly.


Martyn said...

Jon a very interesting post and your thoughts are similar to mine. I do wonder if the siege intensifies perhaps Mr Shinawatra is planning a return home. His prison term could be short lived if the red armies pressure were to mount forcing the PM to release him.

Jon said...

Hi Martyn, thanks for the early bird comment.

Personally, I can see Thaksin returning only if there is an election called. Should he become PM I doubt he will go to prison.

Despite the 1mil baht ransom issued recently, Thaksin in exile is not all bad for the current regime. They can slap a 'wanted' tag on him and continually blame him for all manner of problems. He's good for encouraging some people to support the Abhisit regime - "it's Thaksin (convinct on the run) or us".

Were he in jail, Thaksin would be blameless. His popularity might even grow in jail as a political martyr.

Who knows? There are no certain answers. What is for sure is the country is a very interesting place to be right now.

Keith said...

It's a little worrying at the moment wondering how far these protests will go. I'd also agree with alot of what you have to say. It'll be interesting to see what Abhisit's next move will be.